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Mariners’ Run Toward Playoffs Becoming a Faint Memory

September 27, 1996

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) _ The 10-game winning streak that propelled the Seattle Mariners back into the playoff chase is but a faint memory. More vivid is the Mariners’ sense of having blown their chance this week.

A week ago, the Mariners were the hottest team in baseball. They had pulled within a game of the stumbling Texas Rangers in the AL West and were challenging the Baltimore Orioles for the wild-card spot.

But Seattle faltered when it hit the road for season-ending series in California and Oakland, losing two of three against the Angels and dropping the first game of a four-game series against the Athletics.

Thursday’s loss at Oakland was particularly painful. The Mariners had rallied for three runs in the top of the eighth to take a 5-3 lead and pump some life into their fading playoff hopes, but allowed four in the bottom of the eighth and lost 7-5.

``You don’t ever forget games like this,″ said closer Norm Charlton, who experienced wildness and gave up three runs in that Oakland eighth-inning rally. ``I remember games I screwed up in Cincinnati.″

That loss, combined with wins Thursday night by Texas and Baltimore, left Seattle 3 1/2 games behind the Rangers and 2 1/2 in back of the Orioles heading into the weekend. All three teams played Friday night _ Seattle at Oakland, Texas hosting California and Baltimore at Toronto.

``We’re still alive,″ Mariners manager Lou Piniella said Thursday with mathematical correctness but little conviction. ``None of them (losses) are easy, but especially at the end of the year they get a little tougher.″

Having to finish the season in California and Oakland was a cruel twist for the Mariners. The Angels had revenge as a potent motive, and the A’s always are lousy hosts to Seattle.

The Mariners matched the third-greatest comeback in baseball history last year when they came from 13 games behind on Aug. 3 to catch the Angels and then defeat them in a one-game playoff for the AL West crown.

And losing at the Oakland Coliseum is nothing new for the Mariners. Thursday’s loss dropped them to 36-89 in Oakland, their worst mark in any city.

Seattle appeared to be duplicating last year’s heroics when it went on that 10-game winning streak, with the last six of those wins coming at the raucous Kingdome.

The Mariners even packed extra clothes in case they needed a one-day trip this coming Monday to Cleveland to make up a game that had potential playoff implications. That game was looking less likely after Thursday.

But Ken Griffey Jr., sitting in a clubhouse where players spoke in whispers and others sat staring at the ground, said he was not yet ready to concede.

``Are we out of it?″ he asked rhetorically. ``Until Lou comes in here and has a meeting wishing us all good luck in the offseason, it’s not over. I’m packed to go to Cleveland. I have a suit all ready.″

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